How to Identify Your Target Audience
:: By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor ::
Whether you're developing blogs, videos or other content types with hopes visitors will become loyal customers, or are looking to improve your product descriptions based on what you know about users, understanding who your target audience is can be a crucial step in your marketing strategy for everyone - e-commerce retailers, information publishers and service providers. It's also something your business may want to revisit from time to time.
Let's take a look at how identifying your target audience can benefit your sales goals and the steps you can take to meet those interested in your products or services.
Target Audience Example
When a person visits HubSpot’s blog they are immediately funneled into two types of visitors: a marketer and a sales professional. At the top of the blog content, people can sign up for the marketing or the sales newsletter. It’s not required to sign up in order to view the content but the option is there. By having two separate sign-ups or conversion funnels, people are self-selecting their interests and telling HubSpot about themselves even though they are just entering an email address. HubSpot can then later market to this person based on their interests (sales or marketing), which can make the campaigns more effective.
Clearly HubSpot has identified who their target audience members are and encourages them to follow the path where they will find the content of most interest to them. By having them self-select, visitors are more likely to stay on the site longer because there is relevant information. For HubSpot, they are likely to increase conversion for that very reason since they offer "gated" content throughout the blog for lead-generation purposes where more information can be gathered at the "pay wall" for content that needs to be downloaded.
HubSpot provides a great funnel based on its known customer types: marketers and sales professionals. As more information is known, these audiences can be segmented further but many brands fail to even identify these basic segments, so let's take a look at how you can start to know your audience better.
Identify Your Target Audience
In order to start planning your marketing strategies, you need to know who your audience is (later can be addressing their pain points or the problems they are trying to solve).
To do this, you can survey them of course with a tool like SurveyMonkey or you can look to other strategies to understand basic demographics of your business audience as well as their interests.
Within Google Analytics, for example, you can see demographics in the Audience tab like the breakdown of the age of people visiting your website, the location of where they are visiting from and whether this is the first visit or if they are a returning visitor (as segments, not individuals). There’s also an Interests reporting tab, that when setup, allows website owners to see what affinities site visitors have. For instance, a website owner may find that the majority of their visitors are classified as "movie lovers" or “travel buffs." The latter, for example, is valuable data for a travel site to know because they can cater content and their experience to visitors who aren't just casual travelers but rather enthusiasts.
For this example, site owners can even see a breakdown of age, location, gender, browser type and other attributes for this "travel bluff" affinity and what "goals" they're accomplishing (previously setup goals within GA like subscribe, sign-up for the newsletter, bought, etc.). Now a company is getting somewhere in that they can identify how the people they most hope to target is responding to their site.
Not as comprehensive as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights can still provide information about those who are most engaged with your brand on Facebook. Knowing the general age of your most engaged fans as well as their gender can provide insights into acquisition and retention initiatives.
Content Management System
If you're running on a modern CMS, some of the target audience work may be done for you. With Sitefinity, for example, you can manage your defined target personas "in order to streamline your process of delivering content that your buyers would like. You can define and manage guidelines on keywords, messages and content relevant to your ideal customers."
One of the easiest ways to identify your target audience is, of course, to ask them but marketers run the risk of over-saturating their audience with requests. There are a few times, however, that present the perfect opportunity to ask people what they prefer and who they are: at email newsletter sign-up (e.g., which content types do you prefer, which products are you most interested in), to download gated content (e.g., organization size, professional role, marital status, gender, income levels, etc.), and as a requirement to take part in an event, survey, free trial, free subscription, loyalty program, birthday club, etc. Of course, conversion rate optimization experts often say that the shorter the form, the more likely it will be completed. Birchbox, in the example below, kept its sign-up form short but asked what people are interested in (beauty or grooming). Birchbox likely could have taken it a step further by asking for gender because it might make some generalizations if it considers beauty for women and grooming for men.
The reason why it's important to identify a target audience is multifold but at the end of the digital day, knowing who you should cater to allows for a more relevant experience for the end-user and better results for the business (as they can focus their efforts accordingly). It's up to the company, however, to ensure that the information they know about who is most frequently visiting their website, buying and engaging, is put to use through email segmentation, social media targeting, personalized content, and other ways to deliver an experience based on their key attributes.